Far-right group demands Israeli-Arab be stripped of Independence Day honor

Lehava wants to protest decision to name television newscaster Lucy Aharish as honorary torch-lighter on Mt. Herzl.

Channel 2 television's Lucy Aharish (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Channel 2 television's Lucy Aharish
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
A far-right Jewish extremist movement that advocates anti-miscegenation laws has requested a police permit to stage a demonstration in Jerusalem against Channel 2 television’s Lucy Aharish, the Arab-Israeli broadcast journalist, who has been chosen to light one of the honorary torches during Independence Day celebrations this week.
According to Channel 2, the head of Lehava (whose Hebrew acronym stands for “preventing assimilation in the Holy Land,”) Benzi Gopstein, said that the planned protests are meant to persuade the Israeli authorities to cancel Aharish’s participation due to her being “an anti-Zionist who is not loyal to the state.”
Originally from Dimona, Aharish was born to Muslim parents. She has been a fixture on Israeli television in recent years, serving as a host on newscasts and talk shows for Channel 10, Channel 2, and others.
Earlier this year, she was picked to light one of the 12 torches during the annual official state ceremony marking Independence Day on Mt.
Herzl in Jerusalem. The honor is bestowed upon citizens who have made significant contributions to the state.
“It is quite unfortunate that [Aharish] of all people was chosen to light a torch on Independence Day,” Gopstein said. “I would understand if they had chosen a representative from the Arab sector who accepts the fact that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.”
“Once they pick a woman for whom the Star of David is not her flag, the IDF is not her army, and her soul does not yearn after 2,000 years, then there is a huge lapse here,” he said. “It misses the point of lighting the torch and sending the appropriate message of Independence Day.”
In response, Aharish told Channel 2: “I have nothing to say. We live in a democratic country and the police will make the decision whether to allow the demonstration or not.”
Several Lehava members – including Gopstein – were arrested earlier this year on suspicion of inciting racial hatred, prompting Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to say that he was weighing the possibility of outlawing the organization.
“I have turned to legal sources in the defense establishment and in the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] with a request to examine the possibility of defining Lehava as an illegal association,” Ya’alon said. “I did this because we cannot as a country allow racist phenomena to endanger in a substantial way the fabric of life here. I did it because we must fight in every way attempts to discriminate among people because of their race, color, sex or sexual preference.”
“Those who engage in spreading hatred against the Arab minority and anyone who is different at all, is dangerous to Israeli society, which is made up of multiple shades. Such people do not represent the Jewish values we were raised on, values whose light must lead the state of Israel,” Ya’alon stated.
Meanwhile, outgoing Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman hailed the selection of Aharish to participate in the ceremony, saying she represents a “symbol of tolerance and coexistence.”
“I want to state very clearly that, in my opinion, according to Judaism which waves the flag of tolerance, coexistence, and that all people are created in God’s image, it is a great honor for our state to have Lucy lighting one of the torches,” the American-born politician said on Facebook.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.